Rosetta Stone Korean: Full Review Unique Features (Pros & Cons)

  • August 5, 2017

Updated December 18th, 2023

It doesn't matter which foreign language you want to learn, if you've searched the web at all you've likely heard of Rosetta Stone. It's not hard to figure out how well Rosetta Stone can market its courses, because everyone's heard of them.

What's a little more difficult is trying to figure out whether their courses are worth the time and money required to use them. In this review we take a look at Rosetta Stone Korean. 

Specifically we look at the Korean language and how well (or not) Rosetta Stone teaches it. We don't cover the ins and outs of the Rosetta method and course in general. You can check out all of that information in our Ultimate Rosetta Stone Review.

Review of: Rosetta  Stone Korean

Use: Language learning software for learning Korean

Effectives

Works well with simple grammar but not with more complex grammar

Price

Rosetta Stone has recently lowered their prices, but their courses are still a little on the expensive side

Time Commitment

1 Lesson typically takes 30 minutes

Ease of Use

 Extremely user friendly

Structure

 Highly structured and walks you through a language step by step 

I Like

  • Easy to use
  • Good for absolute beginners
  • Good for basic use of a language

I Don't Like

  • Doesn't help much with Hebrew script
  • Complex grammar is difficult
  • Not for intermediate/advanced learners 

Linguistically Korean is distant from English. It's grammar and writing system stand as real obstacles to new learners. The problem with the Rosetta Stone Korean course is that it doesn't do a good job at accommodating these linguistic differences. 


It largely glosses over things like the Korean writing system, honorific language, and other difficult grammar concepts .


If you're serious about learning the language a different more comprehensive course might be a better choice. Still, the course works well at the basic level. Beginners in Korean can walk away from the course with a basic foundation in the language. 

Is Rosetta Stone Korean right for you?

Yes if you're new to the language

Rosetta Stone markets and designs their courses for beginners. If you have little to no experience in Korean then Rosetta Stone is a notable option.

Yes if you're a casual learner

If your language learning mantra is "slow and steady wins the race", then the Rosetta Stone method will appeal to you. It's designed to teach the language in what are essentially baby steps. Little by little you'll gain traction in the basics of the language. 

No if you're lower intermediate or higher

As we said before Rosetta Stone is designed for beginners. If you're at a lower intermediate level of proficiency or higher, you should consider a different option.

No if you like a more intense approach

If you like to dive into a foreign language versus just dipping your toes then Rosetta Stone is not for you. The coddled approach will probably seem too slow, if not boring for you.

No if you want to speak Korean immediately

There is some debate in the language world as to whether or not you should start speaking a new language from day one or attain a foundational grip on grammar first. Rosetta Stone is for those who ascribe to the latter option, as their courses simply don't do much to develop your conversational abilities. 

Pros

Works for the basics

Rosetta Stone's approach works well for helping you to intuitively learn basic Korean grammar and vocabulary. As long as the concepts and sentence structures aren't too involved you should be able to effectively learn and internalize them. 

Cons

The no translation method doesn't work well for Korean Grammar

Korean grammar differs widely from English. When your course doesn't use any English to explain the intricacies of what's going on within a Korean Sentence, this can create problems. 

Korean uses a different word order than English. English uses a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) word order (The boy eats the apple), while Korean typically uses a Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) structure (The boy the apple eats). 

More info on the basics of Korean grammar

Korean also uses a system of honorifics, meaning that words will change based on your relationship to the person you're talking with or about. This is immensely difficult to learn without explicit explanations in English.

There are a total of 7 levels of politeness in Korean, here's a video with more info on them

Rosetta Stone also doesn't do a great job of exposing you to the different levels of politeness and teaching when you should use them. More often than not you'll only be using the more polite levels of speech.

The Rosetta courses typically gloss over writing systems. They work better with languages that use a Latin based alphabet similar to English, but they struggle to adequately teach writing systems that are further removed. Their courses have always emphasized repeating spoken vocabulary over being able to interpret texts.  

Rosetta Stone doesn't do great with the Korean writing system

Many would say that the Korean writing system isn't hard so much as it's just very different from English. Korean's writing system combines a letter/alphabet system with a block method of conveying syllables

Once you get the hang of it the system proves to be very logical. The problem is that Rosetta Stone has never been known to really focus on writing or reading very much. 

More info on the Korean writing system

The focus of their courses is typically to get you to hear or see and then repeat. Couple this with the fact that there are no English explanations to help you figure out how Korean's writing system works, and you have a missed opportunity to learn to read and write Korean. 

How to use Rosetta Stone to Learn Korean

Check out these tips to learn how to get the most out of your Rosetta Stone Korean course!

1. First, don’t use Rosetta Stone in isolation. If you consider yourself a visual learner, you may love the image-heavy Rosetta Stone lesson structure. But you can find other visually compelling learning resources, too! Make sure you pair Rosetta Stone with an app, course, or program that will teach you Korean grammar.

If you understand the rules of honorifics and sentence structure, Rosetta Stone lessons will serve as a meaningful reinforcement, and also help you learn a good selection of core vocabulary.

If you don’t learn grammar somewhere else, though, Rosetta Stone’s Korean course will often leave you scratching your head. 

For example, you may find yourself wondering why a word that means the same thing can sound totally different in different conversational settings. A child addressing an adult will alter words with formal honorifics to show respect, while a teen speaking to another teen will likely use casual language.

2. Don’t skip the speaking practice. Rosetta Stone’s app has a sleek interface and includes speech recognition software. This means that during speaking lessons, you can talk into the microphone on your phone and get graded on your pronunciation.

No speech recognition software works perfectly, of course, but there is a lot of benefit just from having a regular chance to speak Korean out loud. This will boost your confidence and help you feel ready to take on real-life conversations in Korean.

Plus, as you advance into later lessons in the Rosetta Stone Korean course, the speaking activities will start to require long sentences or phrases. This is a great way to practice stringing together words, not just saying each new word in isolation as beginners often do.

3. Rosetta Stone uses an immersive approach to teaching Korean, meaning that it does not provide lessons or explanations in English. But you can still speed up your Korean learning by seeking out other ways to immerse yourself in the language during the week.

Probably the most fun immersive activity you can try is watching Korean TV shows and movies. South Korea has a huge movie, music, and TV industry, popularly termed Hallyuwood. This makes it easy to find access to a wide variety of Korean media, no matter where you live! Popular streaming services like Netflix have a ton of Korean show options. 

You can also listen to thousands of different KPop artists while you jog around the neighborhood or do daily chores around your house.

Any chance to flood your brain with the sounds of the Korean language is a good thing!

4. Find ways to learn about Korean culture. Language learning is not all about grammar rules and memorizing vocabulary. Language and culture always mirror each other in interesting ways, so learning more about Korean culture will help you understand the shape of the language.

So, how do you learn about culture? Read about Korean history online, or seek out books from your local library. Watch Korean movies and TV shows to gain insight into modern life in Seoul or Busan. Research the main religions practiced in Korea (Buddhism and Christianity). 

Discover literature that has shaped the past and present culture, like the genre of family-saga-style novels called “Great River fiction.” This will help you begin to understand the importance of family in Korean culture.

If you have an Asian grocery store in a town near you, start adding elements of Korean food into your diet. You can find fun YouTube channels like this fun series from Maangchi to learn how to prepare your own delicious Korean cuisine!

5. Remember why you started. Learning a new language takes a lot of time and effort. Some days, you may feel like you’re plodding through repetitive Rosetta Stone lessons. This is why you should find a way to remind yourself of what you love about the Korean language on a regular basis.

For example, maybe you decided to learn Korean because you are a huge fan of popular music groups like BTS or BlackPink. You could remind yourself of your love of K-pop by challenging yourself to memorize all the lyrics to your favorite songs as you learn new Korean vocabulary each week.

What other people are saying about Rosetta Stone Korean

Donovan Nagel

Languages like Korean and Japanese use various levels of politeness and honorific vocabulary depending on who you are and who you’re talking to. A child speaking to or about their grandparents would use a respectful style of speech that they would never use to their friends in the playground for example.

The problem with Rosetta Stone Korean (and I suspect the same is true of Japanese) is that it does a poor job at demonstrating this.

It is there but it’s just not clear enough.

There are also images throughout the program of people using honorific styles in a way that simply wouldn’t be seen in reality and there’s no casual speech used in the dialogues at all (e.g. in one lesson there’s a picture of a mother using a polite honorific form to address her daughter which is a little strange).

Alternatives to Rosetta Stone Korean

Rocket Korean

Price

$150

Time commitment

20+ minutes a day 

Summary:

Rocket Korean offers a comprehensive beginner-level Korean course. It includes all the elements you need when learning a language, like a focus on grammar, speech, listening, and even a little bit of culture. The course has a linear structure, but you can also jump around to focus on different themes if you prefer.

Each unit includes lessons focused on language and culture, which dives into grammar and daily life; writing to help you master the easy block-style Korean alphabet; and interactive audio where you listen to a podcast-style lesson, and then a dialogue recorded by native Korean speakers.

You can also check out a cool “Survival Kit” section to get a crash course in Korean basics. Depending on your subscription level, you can also access special tools like flashcards and memory aids in conjunction with the lessons.

One great thing about Rocket Korean is that it emphasizes the honorifics used in Korean, and helps you understand how to modify words or phrases depending on the social setting and who you find yourself speaking to. This is a big flaw in Rosetta Stone, which expects you to somehow infer the rules of honorifics just from hearing Korean spoken!

KoreanClass101

Price

From $4+ per month

Time commitment

15+ minutes a day 

Summary:

Koreanclass101 features audio lessons in a podcast format. Lessons are great for grammar and vocabulary.

In terms of the sheer amount of content offered, KoreanClass101 is by far the most comprehensive resource out there right now for learning Korean. This online and app-based program offers a huge library of podcast-style audio and video lessons.

Each lesson starts with a dialogue between native Korean speakers and then leads into explanations and instruction to help you learn new syntax, vocabulary, or cultural subjects.

The course offers a feature called Pathways to help you navigate through the many lesson options. This way, you can start at an appropriate level and get a linear structure to help you work through the lessons. You could also use Pathway to help you focus on Korean for a particular setting such as corporate vs family settings.

One big benefit to using this course is that you can break down the audio and video lesson using a line-by-line feature to really parse out the sounds and syntax of the dialogue. You can even listen to a part of the recording and then record yourself saying the same phrase to see how you compare.

You can also download a PDF version of each lesson. This is very thorough and offers a rich resource to help you review things like new grammar rules. Not many programs offer this service, so it is worth considering!

Pimsleur Korean

Price

$150

Time commitment

30 minutes a day 

Summary:

Pimsleur will give you the best training in conversation you can find anywhere. This app uses two key methods to help you learn Korean. 

First, it focuses on audio lessons and active listening. Every lesson features a thirty-minute audio lesson presented by a narrator and two native speakers. The narrator coaches you to listen to a dialogue and to pause and repeat certain words or phrases out loud. Active listening keeps you engaged and also helps you learn correct pronunciation.

After the audio portion, you go through multiple hands-on activities in the app, like matching challenges or speaking practice. You work through 90 or these lessons, each taking about an hour to complete, before you finish the quite comprehensive program. 

Second, all Pimsleur courses use a method called Spaced Repetition Theory to help you consistently cycle through core material. The timed repetition helps you permanently remember a set of core vocabulary rather than trying to cram in thousands of new words a month.

The Pimsleur app does offer some grammar instruction during the audio lessons, but it is not as heavy of a focus. Mostly, you will focus on conversational Korean and core vocabulary. The app also features speech recognition software so you can try out your pronunciation, too!

Ling App

Price

$14.99 Per month

Time commitment

10 minutes a day 

Summary:

If you like games, mini-challenges, and an easy way to track your progress, you will enjoy Ling’s gamified Korean app. 

Ling offers over 60 great language courses focused on “less popular” languages, especially Asian ones. This means that the course offers a lot of material tailored specifically to Korean, rather than using the cookie-cutter model Rosetta Stone employs for pretty much all languages.

Ling has a great interface and a good variety of activities so you don't get bored. It will help you master the basics of Korean vocabulary in short daily games and lessons.

That said, it does not focus heavily on grammar explanations. You get some in your lessons and it is explained in English, unlike in Rosetta Stone! But this is not a heavy focus of the program.

Every lesson works you through three or more activities to help you approach new material in a different way and then wraps up with a dialogue recorded by native speakers and presented in little speech bubbles on your screen. This is great because it helps you build listening comprehension, literacy, and pronunciation. 

Plus, the app includes speech recognition software to give you a chance to test out your spoken Korean.

Once you get past beginner basics, you will likely want to pair ling with a more in-depth learning resource. But it is definitely a fun way to keep yourself motivated for daily Korean study!

Duolingo Korean

Price

Varies

Time commitment

10 minutes a day 

Summary:

The huge advantage of using Duolingo to learn Korean is that the app is free (though it does include ads). The app also uses a gamified structure to help you learn in short, challenging bursts of activity. You can set daily or weekly goals and get a lot of satisfaction out of tracking your progress, too.

The basic pattern Duolingo uses is to immerse you in a new concept, and then ask questions about it You guess until you get the right answer. The idea is that this will help you remember the concept better than getting an actual lesson explaining the concept.

For example, you begin by learning Hangul, the Korean alphabet. You might see a letter on the screen and get a multiple-choice asking you what sound that letter represents. By process of elimination, you will eventually get the right answer!

Does this work? Well, you can quickly and easily work through Duolingo’s Korean program, and you will come away with a good grasp of some core vocabulary at the very least. The app does feature speech recognition software, so you get the added bonus of forcing yourself to practice speaking Korean out loud which is always beneficial.

Beyond that, you will likely want a more intensive program to learn about Korean syntax and essential Korean concepts like honorifics.

Once you get past beginner basics, you will likely want to pair ling with a more in-depth learning resource. But it is definitely a fun way to keep yourself motivated for daily Korean study!

Conclusion

If I'm honest Rosetta Stone Korean wouldn't be my first choice for a Korean course. The method simply doesn't do the language justice. But if you're a curious beginner I suppose there could be some value in the course. 

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